What are the Rules for the 2023 Women’s World Cup?

Here’s the format and rules for the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

Teams and Brackets

Like the 2022 World Cup* held in Qatar, the Women’s World Cup now has 32 teams.

Teams are divided into eight groups of four. They play one game each against the other three teams.

The top two teams in each group go on to the round of 16. From there, it’s single elimination into the quarter-finals, semi-finals, and finals.

The Women’s World Cup has not yet adopted the expansion to 48 teams that the 2026 World Cup will use.

* Fun fact: There is no such thing as the Men’s World Cup even though some TV commentators have taken to calling it that. The main World Cup does not have any gender restrictions and both men and women are eligible to play.


During the group stage, ties are allowed. If the teams are tied on points, the group standings are decided by:

  • Goal difference
  • Goals scored
  • Points against teams in question (head to head)
  • Goal difference against teams in question (head to head)
  • Goals scored against teams in question (head to head)
  • Fair play points in all matches
  • Drawing of lots

During the knockout stages, all games must have a winner. If the game is tied after regulation, there are two 15-minute periods of extra time.

There is no golden goal or sudden death. Extra time continues even if a team scores.

If the game is tied after extra time, it’s decided by a penalty shoot-out. Each team gets five shots, then it goes to sudden death if it’s still tied.

Other Rules

The Women’s World Cup follows the latest edition of the FIFA Laws of the Game.

The five-subs rule is now permanent in all competitions. Teams will also get an additional sub if the game goes to extra time.

VAR will be used.

The tournament does have a yellow card accumulation rule. If a player gets two yellow cards in the first four matches (group stage or quarter-finals), she’ll miss the next game.

Yellow cards don’t carry through to the semi-finals so a player can’t miss the final for getting two yellow cards in different games. A double yellow card or straight red card in the semi-final still means missing the final.


FIFA selects the top referees from around the world to attend. In the Women’s World Cup, all or nearly all of the on-field officials are traditionally women.

FIFA has selected some men as VARs. This is mainly because women’s leagues around the world have been slower to adopt VAR.

During the tournament, the referees for each match are appointed from a neutral country.

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